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Newsflash: John Hickenlooper Undecided

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I’ve written in this space before about why Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper’s potential candidacy for governor is such an important story in Colorado politics, and I’ll maintain that his decision will be one of the two or three most important political developments of 2006. But even so, the amount of press Hickenlooper has generated over the past week has been staggering in its complete and utter worthlessness.

Hickenlooper and his potential candidacy has been one of the lead stories in either The Denver Post or the Rocky Mountain News, and often in both papers, since the middle of last week. The story, however, has always been the same: Hickenlooper is still undecided about running for governor. The News is particularly guilty of running the same story over and over again, which consists of little more than a reporter asking Hick if he will run for governor and hizzoner responding that he has not yet decided.

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I don’t entirely blame the News for this, because there’s really not much else going on in statewide politics and everybody wants to be the first to get the story. But this press coverage is almost unprecedented (I say “almost” because I just can’t think of another precedent) for a Colorado politician, and it highlights the primary reason why Hickenlooper would be the overwhelming favorite to win the governor’s race if he were to run: NOBODY has a better public profile among Colorado politicians. NOBODY.

You can debate whether or not Hick’s popular public profile is deserved, but that doesn’t change the reality of his perceived popularity. Name me one other Colorado politician who could generate five straight days of stories about nothing.

You can’t.

This press coverage has also gotten me thinking about just how orchestrated his indecision might be. Let me preface this by saying that I do not — repeat, I do not — necessarily believe this to be the case, but I think it’s an interesting idea: if Hickenlooper has already decided to run for governor, is he (or his press guru Lindy Eichenbaum Lent, one of the best in the business) orchestrating this indecision on purpose? Again, I don’t necessarily believe this to be true because it would be a pretty complicated thing to have planned out in advance, but the buzz he has created among politicos has led to a non-stop flow of mostly-positive stories by the media as everyone waits breathlessly on his final decision.

This would be a difficult thing to orchestrate, and you would need a perfect storm of candidates and political environment to make it happen — in other words, I can’t think of an example outside of Hickenlooper and the 2006 governor’s race where this planned indecision would be possible to pull off. But if you would have had the foresight six weeks ago to plan this, and have Hickenlooper continually stringing people along while the media continually runs stories about his intentions, you would enter the governor’s race with a great steam of momentum while generating an even higher profile than you already had. The average voter probably sees all of these stories about Hickenlooper debating whether to run and probably takes from them that he must be a pretty talented politician to generate so much attention.

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Again, do I think they are doing this on purpose? No — but it would have been a pretty good idea if they were. Maybe Hickenlooper really doesn’t know what he is going to do, but maybe he has long ago decided to run for governor and is just playing all of the cards in his hand before he makes his last bet.

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